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Results of Republican's Contract On America

Child-support enforcement takes hit. What are the folks in Washington thinking?

The deficit reduction act of 2005 which President Bush signed this month, February, 2005, has reduced Federal support for child support enforcement programs run by the states.

Deep slashes in the federal child-support enforcement program—included in Congress’ most recent budget cuts—have left states searching for ways to avoid scaling back what has been hailed as the government’s most successful social-services program.

The changes, effective October 2007, reduce the federal government's share of costs in states' increasingly successful efforts to collect overdue child-support payments from deadbeat parents.

Since the federal child-support enforcement program was created in 1975, states have used federal matching funds to employ thousands of caseworkers plus legal, administrative and law enforcement staff to track down parents and collect overdue child-support payments.

Using innovative tactics—such as wanted posters, highway billboards, subpoenas of cell phone records and offers of reduced payments for parents who volunteer to come forward—states now are collecting $4.38 in child-support payments for every dollar spent on enforcement operations.

There’s no question that the program has been successful, but congressional budget-cutters argued that the federal share of the $5.3 billion program is much too high. Congress wrote new rules to trim the federal government's share—which on average covered 88 percent of program costs—and included them in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, signed by President Bush this month.

Because most states save money from child support dollars in their other social welfare programs, it is probable that states will find a way to keep the child support enforcement program going, but I worry because I see so many families in counseling where the custodial parent and kids aren't getting the financial support that was ordered and they suffer as a result. With child poverty on the rise, it seems that this Republican administration is going in the opposite direction of what the social indicators would suggest.

It seems outrageous that this congress can find money for militarization and war, and money for tax cuts to the rich, and billion dollar giveaways to the oil and pharmaceutical corporations, but they can't find a way to keep a child support enforcement program going to provide some sort of low level financial security to custodial parents and their kids. The data clearly indicates that financial inequality is growing in the United States, and that the percentage of children in poverty is growing and yet the nation's values and priorities seem perverted if the behavior of our congresspeople is any indication when they legislate our national policies.

Link: Child-support enforcement takes hit.

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